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Toll or no toll for Massey Tunnel replacement?

Commuters and businesses may be happy the premier has pledged to build a new, wide bridge to replace the often-clogged George Massey Tunnel, but the matter of how to pay for it has not been settled.

Province hasn't confirmed if new Fraser River bridge to have user fees, but local mayors expect them

The new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel may be tolled 3:31

Commuters and businesses may be happy the premier has pledged to build a new, wide bridge to replace the often-clogged George Massey Tunnel, but the matter of how to pay for it has not been settled.

The Fraser River in the Lower Mainland already has two new tolled bridges, and some say a third is simply unfair for those in the fast-growing south-of-the-Fraser region.

When Christy Clark pledged on Friday that her government would begin breaking "the worst bottleneck in the Lower Mainland" by 2017, she didn't have firm figures on how much it would cost.

Clark also said she didn't know whether tolls would be part of the new bridge plans.

Users of the new Port Mann Bridge, linking Surrey with Coquitlam, and the Golden Ears Bridge, linking Langley to Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, already pay tolls and some expect a replacement for the 76-year-old Pattullo Bridge to come with user fees as well.

Patrick Jones, executive director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association in Washington, D.C., said tolling is making a comeback.

"I think people are making the connection between the use of the facility and payment for the use," he said. "Tolling is an excellent way to marry the payment of the facility for the use of facility. If you don't use the facility, you're not paying for it. "

But Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said it's not fair to make south-of-the-Fraser bridge users bear the brunt of the costs. She'd rather see user-pay programs on bridges and roads right across the region.

"Making sure that it's at a low price and that it's fair and equitable across the region, and then you can pay for the large pieces of infrastructure, and you can pay for expansion," Watts said. "It makes sense that everybody pay a little bit — not penalize a portion of the region or a segment of the population at a high rate."

Other local mayors have also pushed for regional tolling, but some feel such a plan is likely to be defeated in the upcoming referendum on transit funding.

With files from CBC's Dan Burritt

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